Lenniejames3_jericho_cbs_240 Am I the only one out there who keeps watching Jericho 100 percent because the concept is intriguing and not the least bit because of anything the show’s creative team has actually done with that premise thus far?

Jericho had its fall finale — to be replaced by the apparently interchangeable King of Queens — on Wednesday and delivered an episode that was a microcosm of the entire season. I was just interested enough that I’ll watch again come February, but just nauseated enough by the tepid melodrama that I won’t miss it while it’s gone.

For my money, Jericho is at its best when the writers pillage their plotlines from great cinematic Westerns, rather than from contemporary soap operas. The idea of what happens to a remote community without the controlling forces of a central authority or government, particularly in the face of an unimaginable tragedy, is fascinating. So when Jericho delves into frontier democracy and gun-point law-and-order amidst crisis, the show can pull its inspirations from sources like Rio Bravo, High Noon and Shane. As a result the genuinely horrible acting and dialogue are excusable. Tonight’s episode, dealing with the recriminations of Gracie’s not-the-least-bit-tragic murder mined The Ox-Bow Incident among other sources and got at least one miraculous scene of acceptable acting out of Skeet Ulrich.

But too much of the episode concentrated on relationships that I just can’t believe anybody cares about. Am I less emotionally involved in the coupling between Farmer Stanley and IRS Wonkette Mimi or the adulterous pairing of Bar Wench Mary and Uber-Bland Eric? I can’t decide. And both trysts are more engaging than the triangle between Jake (Ulrich), Emily (Ashley Scott) and Heather (Sprague Grayden). After dedicating the season’s first handful of episodes to the tentative flirtations between Jake and Heather, building to a kiss, the writers have spent the past few hours pushing the idea of Jake and Emily’s romantic destiny, which is tough embrace, since Emily’s a pill. Plus, in a feat of astounding predictability, the writers had Emily and Jake approach kissing on Wednesday just as her long-lost fiance Roger arrived out of nowhere.

The arrival of the pack of slow-walking survivors was one of a handful of semi-twists and cliffhangers at the end of the episode. Mopey Teen Dale (Erik Knudsen) committed a violent act that was both dramatically reprehensible, but also pleasingly unexpected (from a character stand-point). Major Dad lost the mayoral election to that Somewhat Evil Veteran Character Actor, which is sure to have repercussions for the more liberal-minded members of the Jericho community (though I’d be more interested in what Gerald McRaney’s Deadwood character would di in this situation). Most interesting, though, was the ongoing IM conversations between Lennie James’ Hawkins (really the best reason to watch the show) and his unidentified contacts, an exchange that ended with accusations of lying, followed by a satellite photo indicated that he was being watched and the closing message "See You Soon."

That being said, the episode didn’t reveal much about any of the show’s holy trinity of mysteries: Who does Hawkins work for? Where has Jake been? And who dropped the darn bombs anyway?

Other semi-rhetorical musings from the fall finale:

  • When are we in the calendar year? Winter’s bound to be coming and the residents of Jericho seem to be more grasshopper than ant.
  • Can’t we get rid of most of the regular actors and rebuild the show around guest stars Profiteering Badass James Remar and Mercenary Badass D.B. Sweeney?
  • I know that the show yearns to be something more mature, but is it bad that I’m really, really, really ready for the zombies to show up?

    Did the fall finale work for you? Any guesses on where things are headed?

  • Posted by:Daniel Fienberg